One of the most common vitamin deficiencies is paradoxically one of the most abundant in nature.
You might be surprised that over 40% of Americans are considered vitamin D deficient, given the amount of sunlight humans are exposed to daily.
In general, many Americans consume less than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D through their diet. Individuals diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency may be advised to take a high-potency vitamin D supplement (typically in 5000 IU capsule form).
Vitamin D supplements are generally advertised to promote bone, muscle, and immune health.
But do you really need a supplement that delivers 5000 IU daily?
The fact is, 5000 IU of vitamin D in a daily supplement is generally more than what most of us need. The maximum recommended daily allowance of vitamin D in otherwise healthy individuals is 4000 IU, which can be derived from a wide array of sources. Supplements containing megadoses are designed for people with confirmed low vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D 5000 IU: A background
Vitamin D is well-known for properties such as regulating calcium levels, promoting strong muscles and bones, and boosting the immune system. It is primarily obtained through exposure to the sun as well as diet.
The majority of an individual’s vitamin D intake is from exposure to the sun. At the same time, the remainder is derived from the diet. Generally, most individuals need around 600-800 IU of vitamin D through their diets.
Therefore, vitamin D 5000 IU is a supplement formulated to treat nutritional deficiencies, which happens when a person doesn’t get enough sunlight or doesn’t eat enough foods rich in vitamin D altogether.
Individuals who spend most of their time indoors or live in harsher, northern climates often lack enough sunlight exposure. Moreover, there are but a handful of foods naturally contain vitamin D.
The type of vitamin D you will find in 5000 IU supplements will generally be vitamin D3, which is found in omega-3 rich fatty fish. On the other hand, plant sources contain vitamin D2. However, the former will be found in supplements more than the latter will, as the former is proven to be more effective in boosting vitamin D levels.
Individuals with such vitamin D deficiencies may benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement. However, taking more than the maximum recommended daily allowance may have adverse effects. Vitamin D 5000 IU is on the extreme end of the spectrum, considering vitamin D supplements generally range from 400-2000 IU doses.
Hitting your recommended daily vitamin D allowance
Nearly 42% of American adults don’t get the recommended amount of vitamin D. Individuals of African-American or Hispanic descent get even less of the nutrient, with 82% for the former, and 69% of the latter
In addition, vitamin D isn’t naturally abundant in food apart from egg yolks and fatty fish. Otherwise, vitamin D is added to milk and cereal (check for the “fortified with vitamin D” label) to help ensure that everybody gets enough of the nutrient daily.
Always refer to the label to determine how much vitamin D a particular product has. The label usually tells how much vitamin D you are getting in your supplement based on each serving.
Individuals who generally don’t consume dairy or fish products may benefit from taking vitamin D supplements if they don’t attain the recommended daily allowance.
Determining whether your vitamin D levels are insufficient
The only foolproof way to know whether your vitamin D levels are enough is by taking a blood test.
However, it must be noted that not everyone needs to get such a test, considering that testing for vitamin D in the bloodstream can cost a pretty penny, while laboratories and clinics may report or test for vitamin D levels in various ways.
Experts agree that vitamin D blood testing should only be done by individuals at the highest risk for running into such deficiencies, particularly for high-risk populations or for individuals with symptoms of acute vitamin D deficiency. Other than that, getting tested for vitamin D deficiency isn’t recommended.
Moreover, vitamin D reference levels are yet to be conclusively established. Most individuals with vitamin D deficiency don’t report any egregious symptoms. However, for individuals who have dealt with vitamin D deficiencies for much longer, some symptoms may manifest, such as the following: fatigue, muscle weakness and pain, and fractures.
Therefore, if you have low vitamin D levels, your doctor may recommend you make lifestyle changes, such as increasing your dietary intake through the consumption of vitamin D-rich food and beverage, increasing exposure to the sun, or taking a high-dose 5000 IU vitamin D supplement. Consult your doctor to determine whether you need a vitamin D supplement, and how much of it you need, if it all.
Vitamin D overdoses: can they happen?
Too much of anything is not good for you. Overdoing any kind of supplement can run you the risk of overdosing–but it’s ultimately way easier to overdose when you’re taking high amounts of the vitamin, such as 5000 IU, will have you go over the maximum RDA of vitamin D. Taking more of vitamin D may lead to side effects. It is worth mentioning that vitamin D overdoses arise as a result of oral intake of supplements rather than getting ample amounts of sunlight. So try to get as much good sunlight as you can (and don’t forget to slather on the suntan).
Toxic side effects of vitamin D overconsumption include high calcium levels in the bloodstream as vitamin D promotes calcium absorption. Too much calcium in the bloodstream can lead to nausea, muscle and bone pain, and incontinence.
Ultimately, the question of whether you need to take a 5000 IU vitamin D supplement can only be answered by having a good idea of your vitamin D levels. If you think you might be deficient in vitamin D, ask your doctor whether getting a blood test for such a deficiency is worth it, particularly if you are at a high risk of doing so. If this is confirmed, your doctor will propose changes to your diet via supplements or food. Don’t take higher than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D–or anything in particular–without first talking to your doctor.